Article at a glance:
- Spirulina’s abundant nutritional profile has been associated with its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Studies on the antioxidant activity of spirulina have found that spirulina, a blue-green algae, may offer tons of brain health benefits.
- Current scientific evidence suggests that spirulina’s nutritional profile and total antioxidant capacity may enhance cognitive functions and support neurobehavioral changes associated with age and oxidative stress.
We need robust brain health and cognitive skills to fulfill the simplest and the most complex daily tasks at any age.
The good news is studies have found promising benefits of taking spirulina for brain and cognitive health. Along with healthy lifestyle modifications, the blue-green algae can be a fantastic option to enhance brain functions and overall health.
Brain Health and Cognitive Function: Are They the Same?
Although brain health and cognitive function are closely related, there is a significant difference.
Brain health is a broad term that generally refers to one’s state of brain functions that affect movements, senses, decision-making, memory, speech, emotions, memories, and more.
Aside from genetics and age, brain health also relates to the organ’s physiological health, development, structure, and overall well-being. The World Health Organization notes that physical health and the state of one’s environment are some factors affecting brain health.
Together, these factors affect how healthy our brain is and how well it functions. That brings us to the different aspects of brain health: cognitive function, motor skills, emotional skills, and sensory or tactile functions.
Simply put, cognitive skills pertain to how we “use” our brains. The ability to remember things (memory), process information (learning), sustain focus and attention, solve problems, and make decisions are critical cognitive processes that affect a person’s quality of life.
Why Consider Taking Spirulina for Brain Health
Is spirulina good for the brain?
Overall physical health is a huge factor in keeping the brain healthy, allowing you to maintain robust cognitive functions. So when it comes to brain health, good nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices are just as important as they are for other body parts.
There’s also evidence that chronic diseases, lack of physical activities, and exposure to harmful pesticides and toxins could adversely affect brain health. Oxidative stress and damage can also wreak havoc on brain health, exacerbating cognitive decline as people age. It’s also worth noting that there is no direct cure yet for neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
However, making healthier choices and lifestyle modifications may promote healthy brain aging. And this is where dietary supplementation like spirulina could be of great help. Spirulina is widely known as a nutrient-dense algae superfood that may provide you with essential nutrients for optimal brain functions.
There’s evidence that taking spirulina for the brain has other potential benefits besides its nutritional value. Many promising spirulina brain benefits have also been attributed to the microalgae’s antioxidant effects that may reduce the risks of developing neurological disorders.
Researchers found some promising benefits in supplementing spirulina for brain inflammation. Some evidence also suggests that there may be positive outcomes in consuming spirulina for nervous system support.
Further research is still needed to fully understand the mechanisms that make spirulina a fantastic brain health companion. The available evidence mainly indicates the several benefits of supplementing with spirulina for brain health.
Cognitive Benefits of Spirulina: What Does Spirulina Do for the Brain?
1. Nutrients for a Healthy Brain
The spirulina biomass has a long list of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, carotenoids, amino acids, and pigments that can do wonders for your overall health. Several notably benefit brain health, including vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and its rich protein content.
Vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to improved brain health, and a nutritional analysis of spirulina culture noted that microalgae can be a source of these nutrients.
Studies indicate that vitamin B12 may promote brain development, support the central nervous system, and lower the risks of dementia like Alzheimer’s disease. DHA Omega-3, on the other hand, exhibited roles in improving brain health at all ages.
Spirulina’s protein content, which is around 60-70% of its dry weight, is another thing that makes it stand out from other dietary supplements. While protein is often associated with muscle growth, recent evidence suggests that a protein-rich diet may also lead to lower risks of cognitive decline and developing dementia as people age.
Studies have linked iron deficiency to cognitive impairment and negative effects on brain health. But supplementing with spirulina may also enhance your iron intake as available data suggests a tablespoon or 7 g of spirulina has 2 mg of iron.
2. Potential Memory Boost
Is spirulina good for the memory?
Memory is one of the most complex aspects of cognitive function. Its impairment can be affected by a wide array of factors, including age, stress, mood disorders, nutrient deficiency, and oxidative stress. While further research is needed, there’s preliminary evidence from human and animal studies demonstrating spirulina benefits for memory.
A 2019 experiment administered scopolamine in male pup Wistar rats to induce memory impairment and an increase in the oxidative stress marker malondialdehyde (MDA). Following spirulina supplementation, researchers noted a statistically significant improvement in the subject’s memory decline. Spirulina’s natural antioxidants appear to play a critical role in the results, as the supplement also helped reverse the MDA concentration back to control levels.
Similar spirulina benefits for memory were also observed in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial with older adults in Korea. Participants were administered 1 g of Spirulina maxima extract daily for 12 weeks.
Following the spirulina supplementation, participants in the spirulina treatment group demonstrated enhanced vocabulary and significant improvements in visual learning. Those who took spirulina also improved their performance in a visual working memory test. The study also noted that memory improvements from spirulina didn’t have adverse effects on the participants’ physical health.
3. May Enhance Focus and Concentration
Can spirulina help brain fog? Does spirulina help with ADHD?
The term “brain fog” is an interesting one. It’s widely used, and you will see it in many social media posts, although there’s no detailed description of this condition yet.
However, the common symptoms of brain fog or fatigue are consistent with cognitive problems. They may include forgetfulness, reduced mental clarity, confusion, and the inability to concentrate or sustain focus. This may also explain why brain fog is typically associated with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and mood disorders.
Brain fog or brain fatigue can also occur without a mental health condition. It can also result from elevated stress, poor sleep, and physical fatigue. In recent years, brain fog has also been observed in patients with long COVID-19. Evidence of the benefits of spirulina for brain fog is still scarce. Still, the blue-green algae has been considered for its potential to improve brain fatigue.
One study noted that spirulina’s essential amino acids, specifically tryptophan, may provide some brain fog relief. That’s because tryptophan is vital for synthesizing 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), commonly known as serotonin. This monoamine neurotransmitter is critical in memory, learning, and mood stabilization.
Although limited, there’s evidence that spirulina may also improve brain fog. One study found that supplementing dietary Spirulina platensis to healthy individuals may alleviate physical and mental fatigue.
4. Antioxidant Boost
A large body of evidence links oxidative stress to cognitive dysfunction and neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. It’s also important to understand what causes oxidative stress and the countermeasures you can take to reduce the risks of severe illnesses later in life.
While free radicals have roles to play in various body processes, they must be balanced with enough antioxidants. Otherwise, this imbalance can lead to oxidative stress, resulting in cellular and DNA damage when left unchecked.
The good news is various studies suggest that the blue-green algae’s antioxidant value may explain the benefits of spirulina for brain and cognitive health. Spirulina has a robust antioxidant profile, including, among others, vitamin C, vitamin E, B vitamins, beta-carotene, provitamin A, potassium, zinc, and calcium.
While it’s true that you can also get these nutrients from other supplements, research has also attributed most of spirulina’s antioxidant benefits to phycocyanin. Phycocyanin extracted from spirulina has demonstrated free radical scavenging activity and the ability to inhibit lipid peroxidation.
5. Anti-Inflammatory Supplement
Many of the antioxidants found in spirulina may also provide anti-inflammatory benefits.
One study revealed that a diet enriched with spirulina antioxidants downregulated pro-inflammatory cytokines, improving cerebellar function in aged animal models. It also found that the blue-green algae decreased MDA levels (oxidative stress marker) in the subjects.
An earlier study also supported the benefit of supplementing spirulina for brain repair. It found that a diet enriched with blue-green algae helped reverse the damage (ascribed to brain inflammation) to dopamine neurons of rat models.
6. Neuroprotective Properties
In vitro and in vivo studies have supported the potential of spirulina to provide neuroprotective effects that may reduce the risks or improve the conditions associated with neurological disorders.
While human clinical trials on the critical role of spirulina for brain protection are still scarce, preliminary and experimental evidence attribute the microalgae’s neuroprotective activity to its tremendous antioxidant capacity.
Studies have revealed promising spirulina brain benefits in experimental and animal models of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. Spirulina was also found beneficial in neutralizing the adverse effects of abnormal glial cell activity.
Microglia are critical in protecting the central nervous system, proliferation of neurons, and removing dead cells. However, when glial cell activity is altered, it’s been found to contribute to oxidative stress and chronic inflammation in the brain.
Cellular studies found that C-phycocyanin from Spirulina platensis stimulated inflammatory responses by upregulating IL-1β and TNF-α. This also indicates spirulina may provide immunomodulatory effects on glial cell activity.
7. Healthy Brain Aging
Many processes in the human body tend to slow down with age, and the same applies to brain health and cognitive performance. However, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help promote healthy brain aging.
Studies have shown that cognitive decline is slowed down in more physically active older adults. A healthy lifestyle (i.e., balanced diet, exercise, and not smoking) lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This is where dietary supplementation of spirulina can be of help.
Adding spirulina products to your diet may provide essential nutrients you’re missing in your regular diet. When used as a dietary supplement, the blue-green algae has also shown energy-boosting potential that may help you stay active at any age.
Taking spirulina may also help improve risk factors for dementia and neurodegenerative disorders. There are plenty of human clinical trials that showed spirulina may help to:
Frequently Asked Questions
Is It Okay to Take Spirulina Every Day?
Daily consumption of spirulina has been found safe in adults in various studies. There’s no universally recommended daily dose yet for dietary spirulina consumption, but the standard dosage administered in human clinical trials ranges from 1 to 8 g daily.
However, when taken in the short-term, the National Library of Medicine indicates that high doses of spirulina — 10 grams for up to 6 months and up to 19 grams daily for 2 months — are “possibly safe.”
What Are the Side Effects of Taking Spirulina?
While studies have not reported toxicity and adverse effects from spirulina supplementation, some might still experience mild side effects.
Reports of stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache, and bloating follow spirulina consumption. Although these side effects may disappear after some time, it’s best to start with lower doses if it’s your first time taking spirulina.
More importantly, you must consult your healthcare provider before adding spirulina to your diet if you’re on any medication or have pre-existing medical conditions.
Is It Better to Take Spirulina in the Morning or Night?
Its potential immediate effect can vary for every person. But spirulina tablets or spirulina powder can be safe to take at any time of the day. There are no clinical reports yet of spirulina supplements interfering with sleep. However, some people feel energized shortly after taking spirulina, so they prefer to consume it in the morning.
Many also prefer to consume spirulina in the morning because of its rich protein content. Several studies found that a protein-rich breakfast may help control daily appetite.
Spirulina and the Brain: Enjoy a Natural Boost to Your Brain Health
There’s a reason spirulina is one of the widely researched microalgae to explore its potential benefits to overall health.
Its dense profile of nutrients contains tons of antioxidants, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and essential amino acids that can provide fantastic health benefits. These active components indicate the promising effects of spirulina on the brain and its cognitive functions.
The potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of spirulina also make it a fantastic addition to your diet that may boost cognitive skills and facilitate healthier brain aging.
So, if you’re looking for a natural dietary supplement to support brain functions and overall health, don’t miss out on the powerhouse green superfood that is spirulina!
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